The invention of the sticky yoga mat thirty years ago has made our modern practice of asana safer and more supported, and allows us to create a space for yoga wherever we go. However, for all the wonderful things that your yoga mat brings to your practice, there are those little annoyances that can take your mind off of your practice – when what we want our mat to do is let us flow on without slipping, sliding, and stinking. So, to keep your yoga mat in your good books, here are a few simple tricks and tips to make the most of this wonderful modern day invention for our ancient and much–loved practice.
Slidey Hands – Probably the biggest complaint I hear about yoga mats is that hands are sliding in poses like Downward Dog. Not only is this irritating when you just want to focus on your breath, but it can be a safety risk as well. When you first buy your mat, it will often be coated with a manufacturing film. This is not only not conducive to stickiness, but also may produce off-gasses that you don’t want polluting your Ujjayi breath. So, wash your mat straight out of the box, and know that the more you use it and the more you wash it, the stickier it will get.
You can also try placing a small towel at the top of your mat, this is most effective once you’ve gotten a bit sweaty, or you can spray a bit of water on your towel for extra stick. You can buy towels specific for this use (Manduka, Lululemon), or try a quick-dry camping towel, or even a hand towel from home.
Another quick solution can be to take your yoga strap and lay it over the top of your mat where you will place your hands. Fold it so that you have two flat layers of strap side by side to place your hands on. This will give you a bit more grip, and help to elevate the heels of your hands slightly to reduce strain on the wrists.
Stinky Mats – As a daily practice keep your mat clean by giving it a quick spray with water, a mix of water and vinegar, or mat cleaning spray and wipe it down with a towel or sponge. If your mat is particularly dirty you can take it into the shower or bathtub to give it a good soak and a light scrub with a sponge. Then, roll it up into a big towel to squeeze excess water out, then lay to dry or line dry without giving it too much sun.
Mat Spray Recipe: You can make a mix of 2/3 water and 1/3 vinegar and this will do the trick. Or, you can make up a blend of essential oils that will not only clean and disinfect your mat, but leave it smelling beautifully. My favourite mat cleaning recipe is:
- 1 Cup Water
- 1/2 Cup Witch Hazel
- 20 drops tea tree oil
- 10 drops of your favourite essential oil, like lavender, peppermint or bergamot oil
Best practice: check with your mat manufacturer about the use of essential oils and vinegar as some mats may not tolerate these products.
Ends Curling Up – Do you have that problem where your mat keeps trying to roll back up on you while you practice? Flip your mat face-side down before you roll it up. Next time you use it, the curled ends will face down and stay out of your way, plus they will smooth out more quickly as you practice giving you a stable base for your asana.
Wear Patterns – your mat can also be a great teacher, helping you to refine your practice. Look at your mat for wear patterns, these might indicate places where you can enhance the conscious placement of your body on your mat. For instance, deep drag marks tell you that you could explore picking up your feet a bit higher before you step into and out of Warrior.
Pilling – if you are getting little mat-bits on your pants, the solution is…get a new mat.
Next time – buy a great quality mat. There are so many choices out there and to be kind to your body and the environment it is worth investing in a good quality mat that will last longer. In my own practice, I used to go through studio mats every 6 months. I have now had the same, super supportive, super sticky mat for over 10 years. For me, the extra expense was worth it for my body, and for the earth.
What to do with your old mat?
- Cut it up into little pads for ankles, elbows etc to provide extra support when you need it.
- Use it to line your car boot (trunk), shelves, or workbench.
- Glue it to the bottoms of furniture legs for a non-scratch surface.
- Use it under your welcome mat, bath mat or kitchen mat to prevent sliding and provide more cushioning.
- Cut it into tiny pieces to fill the bottoms of pots to provide drainage for plants without weight.
- Take them camping – they could come in handy to sleep on, sit on, and lay on at the beach.
- Cut them up into pet bowl mats, jar opening grips, and safe shower entries.
- Get crafty and make coasters, shower shoes, or Christmas ornaments.
Donate: animal shelters will take your old mats to provide much needed warmth and support to shelter dogs waiting for their forever home.